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Numbers Games: Student Performance, Magnet Schools, Personal Finance

Greenwich Board of Education considers the numbers while planning for the future; numbers also play into proposal for personal finance graduation requirement.

  

“Greenwich is in a very strong place”

The new Accountability System established by the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE), was presented to the Greenwich Board of Education at the Jan. 10 work session. The new system calculates baseline school performance indicators (SPIs) between 0-100 for each school with a score of 88 being the target level of performance.

The SPI is based upon the aggregate scores across all grades on standardized testing in math, reading, writing and science. “We have a couple of schools who are below the mark,” said Greenwich School Superintendent Dr. William McKersie. He added, “Greenwich is in a very strong place.”

State Support

When the SDE announced the launch of their on-line School Performance Database last month, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor characterized it as producing "more precise, more helpful snapshots of school performance.”

The new system anticipates that “by heralding schools making significant progress and highlighting schools in need of greater support, the system will also help districts and the state focus our efforts where they are needed most,” Pryor said.

McKersie agrees that the new system will allow the district to “focus energies” on where there is “room to grow and progress.”

Click here to access the database.

“Preparing us for the future”

Special Projects Manager John Curtin co-presented the “transition system,” which was developed “to evolve from No Child Left Behind to where we are going in the future. I think this is a precursor of what is to come.” While Curtin confirmed that the new state system is “much more inclusive than it was before,” he did admit that “it does get mathematically complicated.”  

Rising Above

While Board Member Steve Anderson said that he believed it was a “good next step,” he questioned the target number of 88 asking if Greenwich should be reaching for even higher scores. The report noted that, based upon 3 years of average scores, 7 of the district’s schools failed to meet the target, with scores of 86. Anderson also stressed that the schools in the district shouldn’t be operating in silos and if one school finds success in an area the other schools should “beg, borrow and steal” the ideas so that “the whole boat rises up.”

"We Can't Solve The Problem By Writing New Guidelines"

McKersie and Curtin also presented Magnet School Guidelines to the board. Both administrators advised the board that the process for entry in the 2013-14 school year should remain the same. Curtin reminded the board that while the magnet program was designed to "create a better flow of kids" while addressing "racial balance," there is a still a "fundamental problem of space."

Curtin said that mid-January was "very,very late in ballgame to change the rules," which he felt would result in "a lot of very unhappy parents." McKersie pointed out that since the issues is "so intertwined with racial balance," he recommended that it remain "status quo at this point," and that the board engage a consultant to analyze racial balance.

The application deadline for a magnet school is March 1, 2013. Each of the four magnet elementary schools, Hamilton Avenue, International School at Dundee, Julian Curtiss and will hold information sessions starting this week for interested families.

Click here to access the information on the open houses, the 2013-14 magnet school guidelines and application.

Fiscal Knowledge For GHS Students?

"It is our roles as educators to ensure that we are providing students with the skill set to be successful and we really believe that personal financial education is essential as well," said Lisa Dempsey, program associate for business education.

To that end, Dempsey recommended that Personal Finance be added as a graduation requirement for Greenwich High School students.

Agreeing, Anderson jokingly admitted that the “teenagers in my household think that money grows in trees.” Stating that such a course would “teach life skills” and the impact of such things as an 18.99% APR on a credit card, Anderson would like the course added to graduation requirements in a 3 block, ¼ credit, pass/fail semester class for juniors and/or seniors.

There are 13 states which require such a class including New York and New Jersey, but none of the New England States do, Anderson said. Assistant Superintendent for CIPL Irene Parisi noted that in a 2008 survey by the State of Connecticut, there were 12 other districts which require Personal Finance as a graduation requirement. She also said recent conversations with the state indicate many more districts are looking at the requirement.

In response to the recommendation, State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151), told Patch, "I am pleased that a Personal Finance course may be included as a graduation requirement for Greenwich Public School students. I have been a strong proponent of this for the past four years and had also contacted the previous administration at Havemeyer regarding its implementation.”

What Should GHS Grads Know And Who Should Teach Them?

Board Chairman Leslie Moriarty expressed concern about “unintended consequences” of changing graduation requirements. "What is it is we want kids to graduate with and to think about it in a broader context?," Moriarty asked.

While Nancy Kail asked if there would be a test out option for those who can demonstrate proficiency, others spoke about what the time adding a course would entail. Peter von Braun suggested that “if we put something in, then we need to take something out or we are going to end up with every available slot being a required course."

Peter Sherr said that while he agreed that finance knowledge is a “great life skill," he does not believe that it is "the responsibility of GHS” to teach. "I am not a fan of abdicating what should be done at home," he stated.

Credit Score Impact

Camillo views it as an opportunity "like mathematics, science and reading, knowing how vital a credit score is, is something every high school student should be aware of." Camillo added, "Knowing how to build up a score, repair a damaged one, and avoid the financial pitfalls that lead to depressed scores are critical to young adults who are starting to acquire debts that need to be repaid. This course would see to it that students are prepared when they make decisions of a financial nature."

The graduation requirement discussion will come back to the board in the spring. In the meantime, Barbara O’Neill suggested asking the students themselves. “It is good to ask the customer,” said O’Neill.

Bernard Schneider January 14, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Special Projects Manager John Curtin is quoted as saying that the magnet program was designed " to create a better flow of kids" while addressing "racial imbalance". I don't understand the part about "better flow of kids." Can someone explain to me what they think Mr. Curtin is saying?
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